it’s difficult to know where things can go next with electronic music, but Mutante seem to know. From the experimental 70s of Eno, Kraftwerk, and Tangerine; via the the pop-centric 80s of Depeche, Cabaret, and YMO; to the rave and post rave eras of Orbital, Aphex and Hopkins. Underlying this, pretty much since the invention of the synthesiser itself, there’s been a subconscious explosion of electronica into our senses through film scores, chillout CDs, ringtones and more recently the DIY/modular synth scenes.
So where too next? Well, I have written before in these pages about the growing electronic scene locally (although, the word ‘locally’ seems pretty conceptual during these times, but I digress) and Mutante add a more mature sound to this exciting scene, or at least further towards the Vangelis and Zimmer end of the spectrum.
For ease of memory Mutante is both the artist and album names (Mutante, Mutante II, and their brilliant remix LP creatively entitled Mutante Remix). The band members Jonathan Parkes and Alec Wood also go under the name of Korb, which is a more guitary, spiritual and ambient affair. (see SLAP issues 77 and 83)
So if we weren’t sure before, we definitely know now that Mutante is firmly set in the epoch of space sci-fi movies. The opening track Visitors is a real scene setter. Imagine a futuristic Tron- like space station receiving alien visitors into its hexagonal everlasting corridors. Cyborgs getting frazzled by electronic laser- wires. I’ve hopefully described the sound here but also the opening scene of the track’s accompanying video, brilliantly crafted by Gerry Carnelly (find it on Youtube).
The sounds are driving and full of intent – up to date without being trite, reminiscing without being retrospective. Lots of LFO and granular-filtered Pulse Width Modulation performed on paraphonic dual oscillating modular synths – (To the untrained ear, that’s the orgasmic swoosh in Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the layered chords of Daft Punk, and the bassline of Being Boiled by Human League.)
Next up, A New Horizon is a pulsating and ambient escape route, perhaps the calm before the more dramatic Magnetron,which is the epitome of film score, less rhythm and more sound sculpture with thick basslines and haunting strings. In Night Creatures, we are clearly listening to alien beings crawling through the cliched vent shafts you get on all those 80’s movies.
My personal favourite is Pyramid Pressure Wave – doing what it says on the tin. The pyramid represented by the triangular waveforms of the synths drifting in and out in mathematical rhythms. The pressure waves are the soothing arpeggiated harmonies accompanied by slowly filtered white noise to help you unwind (Yes folks this album is therapeutic).
This segues nicely into Castles In Space,more steamy but intense ambience here. And finally,The Expanse, an inevitably wide landscape on which we end our journey after the previous dramatic turmoil.It’s a credit to how well Parkes and Wood have achieved this, but inevitably the album takes you on this brilliant narrative, which is so hard to achieve in any music, let alone instrumental electronica.
If they aren’t doing so already Mutante need to pitch this album to film makers, and it genuinely wouldn’t look out of place in a big budget movie. The music really is that good.
I have mentioned escape, therapy and release a couple of times in this review so perhaps that is where music should be going during these challenging times. Mutantes fingers are on that pulse, no doubt.